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Influx of visitors to Bowen Island during COVID-19 troubles mayor

Last Updated Apr 17, 2021 at 4:20 pm PDT

(Source: Riley Phillips/NEWS 1130)

Tourists and daytrippers continue to travel to Bowen Island

Bowen Island's mayor says locals have told him they are concerned about an influx of visitors during the third wave

BOWEN ISLAND (NEWS 1130) — The mayor of Bowen Island says he’s been seeing more visitors recently, and if crowds keep coming he’d like to see concrete action from the province on non-essential travel.

Gary Ander says the community always sees a swell of people when the weather turns warmer but during this third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic — which has seen record numbers of cases and hospitalizations — it’s concerning.

“Traditionally, we do have a huge influx of tourists during the summertime, there’s no question about that, and it’ll go right through till the end of September,” he says.

“People are, at this point in time, they’re still free to travel in their own in their own district and we’re part of Metro Vancouver, so I believe that there’s no restrictions on people coming to Bowen Island.”

The idea of an interprovincial ban has been floated as concerns over people from other provinces visiting B.C. grew. However, earlier this year, Horgan said it was not possible to bring in such a measure. When it comes to travel within the province, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has urged people to travel outside their communities only if necessary.

RELATED: B.C. premier says local travel ban not off the table

Ander says last year after the pandemic was first declared, movement was much more restricted.

“We had quite a bit of cooperation with BC Ferries. They would ask people: Do you own a place on Bowen Island? Do you actually live there? We also had some concrete direction sort of keep the people off the island that didn’t really have to be here, but I do not believe that we have that this year,” he says.

“We do not have that mandate from the province to actually stop people from coming to the island. Would it help of course it would there’s absolutely no question about it.”

RELATED: B.C. needs to move beyond advisories, recommendations against travel: expert

Noting businesses rely on the influx of visitors and daytrippers in the warmer months, Ander says restricting travel to the island would take an economic toll.

“That is the part of that kind of hurts. You’re caught between a rock and a hard place. We love to have tourists over here, but certainly not during COVID,” he says.

“If there is some kind of a mandate that comes out of the province, then we’ll be the first ones to jump on it. If they don’t give us any guidance, we probably are just going to err on the economy side.”

Ander says the island hasn’t been too hard hit with cases, but he’s heard from people who are worried this could change with more travel and more transmissible variants circulating.